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My daughter just had her second birthday. It’s been two years since I first held her tiny body in my arms, felt the gentle rise and fall of her breath. Two years since the timeline of my life split in half — before motherhood, after motherhood.

At two years old, my daughter explores the beach. Photo credit: Spencer Crawford

Celebrating my daughter’s second birthday with a trip to the beach. Photo credit: Spencer Crawford

How has motherhood changed me over these two years? Or rather, how is motherhood changing me?

It has given me a new and deeper understanding of what love is. Love is patient, love is kind. Love will let you wipe your snotty nose on its clean sleeve. Love will get up with you at 11 pm and 1 am and again at 3:30 because your teeth hurt and you can’t sleep. Love isn’t grossed out by spit-up or giant poop diapers. Well maybe just a little grossed out.

I had a thought a few weeks ago, perhaps a God-revealed thought: The purpose of life is love. (Ok, I admit this is not a very original idea). If we don’t love others, we are missing the purpose. What does it matter if we’re highly successful in our careers but our lives are devoid of love? Even if we devote our lives to something altruistic, like teaching middle school, but we don’t do it in love — our lives are empty.

So, if our whole purpose for being here on this earth is to learn how to love others — well, what better opportunity than being a wife and a mother? What an opportunity to humbly serve others in love. What a high calling. What a blessing that I have been entrusted with this.

And I’m struck by how much I’ve come to love this tiny person, my daughter. At first she was a stranger who had entered my life like a hurricane, leaving me injured and bewildered. I looked forward to the day when I could go back to an office job and my normal life. But now? I’m so grateful that I have the chance to work from home and spend each day with my daughter.

I’ve always been career-driven and I still would like to have a successful career. But I know now that being a mom is the most important job I will ever have. If you’re a mom – or a dad – I hope you feel the same way.

What have you learned since becoming a parent?

 

I was pretty nervous about the idea of flying with my daughter. The thought foremost in my mind was: What if she throws a tantrum and everyone else on the plane thinks I’m the worst person in the world for ruining their flight? Or, what if she has a poopy diaper on the flight? I couldn’t imagine trying to change a diaper in a tiny airplane bathroom.

For these reasons, I probably would not have chosen to fly with my toddler except that we were graciously given plane tickets to Palm Springs for Christmas. And, right under the two year age limit, Marie could sit on my lap for free. So, I had no choice!

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We made it to Palm Springs! She wants to be a golfer, like her Daddy.

Here are some tips I discovered for making flying with a toddler a positive experience:

1) Plan a short trip. Take as short a trip as possible (with a direct flight) to ensure the best experience for everyone involved. Maybe you can postpone the 10-hour flight to Paris until your child is older? Lucky for us, our flight was only slightly over 2 hours.

1) Bring a copy of the birth certificate. If your child could possibly pass for two by any stretch of the imagination, bring a birth certificate just in case the airline challenges you. If you don’t, they might make you pay for a seat for your child. Expensive!

2) Bring your stroller or Ergo carrier. Navigating your way through the airport with toddler and carry-ons can be challenging. Marie was napping when we arrived at the airport, so I just strapped her into my Ergo carrier and then had two hands available to pull our rolling suitcases. Even though I rarely use the Ergo now that she is so heavy, I was glad to have it for walking through the airport. It was also great during the security checkpoint — that can be a little scary for kids and I know she would have wanted to be held then anyway.

3) Give her something to drink during take-off and landing. Drinking or sucking on something helps relieve ear pressure during take-off and landing. Marie likes pureed fruit packets, so we gave her one of those and that seemed to do the trick. Also, if you’re still breastfeeding, don’t forget that’s an option as well. I didn’t really want to nurse her on the plane with so many strangers around, but she got fussy and I ended up doing it anyway. Ultimately, I figured people would rather I nurse her than listen to a huge tantrum from which there was no escape.

4) Enjoy the magic of Disney. Yes, they say that children under age two shouldn’t be allowed to watch movies or television. We eventually had to lift that ban to avoid going insane — sometimes we just need a break. (Her exposure to media is still very limited, don’t worry). On the plane, do what it takes to make your child happy. For Marie that meant letting her watch Disney cartoons with no sound, because she refused to wear headphones. If you don’t want your child to watch movies, bring lots of books and toys for her to play with.

Luckily we didn’t need to do any emergency diaper changes and things went pretty smoothly for us on our flights to and from Palm Springs. Holding her in my lap was like snuggling with a warm teddy bear for two hours. My husband didn’t need to help much, and was able to spend most of the time chatting with other passengers. We even received some compliments on our wonderfully well-behaved toddler. So, success beyond my wildest dreams! Although the car rides to and from the airport were a different story altogether.

Have you flown with a toddler or lap infant? Do you have any additional tips that helped you through the experience? Did you have to do any awkward in-flight diaper changes?

You’re still breastfeeding? How old is your daughter?

Yes, I still nurse my daughter, who is almost 21-months-old.

OK, that’s cool, but this topic makes me uncomfortable. Can we still be friends if I don’t read this article?

Sure, why don’t you check out these photos my husband and I took on our recent hike to the top of Spencer’s Butte. I’m not trying to make you uncomfortable,  but I do think it’s important to raise awareness about this topic.

Are you some kind of breastfeeding activist?

Not exactly. I’ve never been very comfortable nursing in public, and I never nurse her in public now that she eats solid foods regularly. But I would like to live in a society where any woman would feel comfortable nursing in public — since breastmilk is the healthiest possible food you can give a baby.

Is it normal to breastfeed a toddler? I thought you were only supposed to nurse until age 1.

Both the World Health Organization and UNICEF recommend breastfeeding until two years or more. Check out this Huffington Post article for more on the topic. True it is not the norm in the U.S., but Americans have very low rates of breastfeeding when compared to the rest of the world.

But doesn’t it hurt? Toddlers have lots of teeth.

Imagine sucking your thumb. Would that hurt? Sometimes babies go through biting phases, but if they want to continue nursing they will learn not to do so.

My pediatrician said there was no medical reason to breastfeed past age 1.

This is what my daughter’s former pediatrician implied, and although he was a very nice man, he was apparently misinformed about this topic. According to the Mayo Clinic “Breast milk is considered the gold standard for infant nutrition…There’s no known age at which breast milk is considered to become nutritionally insignificant for a child.” In addition to high nutritional value, breast milk also contains your antibodies to viruses, which can help your toddler stay healthy while her immune system is still developing. Extended breastfeeding also has many positive benefits to the mother’s health including reduced risk of breast and ovarian cancers.

I weaned my baby when I went back to work at 3 months. Are you trying to make me feel bad about myself?

No way girlfriend. Being a mom is oh so challenging — we’re all just trying to do the best we can, right? In fact, nursing a newborn was one of the most challenging things I’ve ever had to do, so kudos to you if you made it through these early weeks!

Marie is almost 19-months-old and is acquiring new words at quite an impressive speed. It is really fun watching her learn new words. She’s quite the little parrot (so be careful what you say). She even puts words together. Here are a few highlights:

“Baby drives!” You know those grocery carts that have little cars in the front of them? I’ve been letting her ride in those at the store and it is quite the thrill. Last week I pulled into the parking lot at Safeway and she spotted the shopping cart and started yelling, “Baby drives! Baby drives!” You should ask her about it when you see her. She’ll tell you.

Baby drives.

Baby drives.

“Ruuunnnn baby!” In addition to being a good driver, baby is also a skilled runner. She has more space in our new apartment and likes to run back and forth through the living room yelling, “Ruunnnn baby!” Good thing we live in Track City.

“Up above the…” She loves music and enjoys singing this little part of “Twinkle twinkle little star.” Another popular tune is a high-pitched “Why oh why oh why,” a Woody Guthrie song my mom sang over and over to her in the back of the car on the way to Portland.

“One berry.” This little one is a major berry fan, and she likes to shove as many berries into her mouth at a time as possible. Apparently my mom told her that she should only eat one berry at a time, because the next time I fed her berries she looked at me, held up her index finger and said “One berry.” She then held up her next finger and said “two.” Learning to count!

 

 

 

My daughter has been doing some cute things lately — so I am writing them down before nap time ends and I forget.

Cute thing #1: Yoga, or more specifically downward dog, as can be seen in this slightly out of focus iPhone photo.

Upside down baby.

Upside down baby.

Maybe she does this because I took her to mom and baby yoga with me from age 5 to 8 months. Or maybe she just likes looking at the world upside down. Who knows? She also says “Om” and “Amen.” I’ve learned from yoga that sometimes it just feels good to say “Om” when you’re having a hard day. Hard days are common when you’re parenting a young child and you don’t have a dishwasher or a washer/dryer. So I say “Om” a lot.

Cute thing #2: Yesterday morning when she woke up she kept softly touching my face and saying “Gentle, gentle.” This is what I tell her when she touches other babies. Then she smacked me. I think she was making a joke. Toddler humor.

Cute thing #3: Last night my husband was cuddling with his arm around her. He thought she was asleep and he took his arm away. She said, “No!” and then she grabbed his arm. She loves her cuddle times.

Cute thing #4: Kissing babies. She is obsessed with babies — whenever we see one she yells, “baby!” Often she will go up to them and kiss them. She also likes to kiss her own reflection in the mirror. Narcissist.

Cute thing #5: Singing. She will sing “brella, brella” (umbrella) over and over. This is her reinterpretation of the song “Under my umbrella,” which we sing in baby sign class and library story time. She also now sings “Hello, happy” which is her rendition of another song from baby sign class. Additionally, she enjoys playing the piano, so perhaps I have a future musician.